The University of Kentucky hosted several prospects this weekend, with several recruits attending the UK-Florida game on Saturday and then hanging around for Junior Day on Sunday.
One of Coach Joker Phillips' main priorities for 2012 is Central running back Anthony "Ace" Wales. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound Wales ran for 2,994 yards and 37 touchdowns in leading Central to the Class 3A championship. He needs 2,795 yards to surpass former Kentucky running back Derek Homer as the state's all-time leading rusher.
Wales has offers from UK, Louisville, Central Florida, Indiana, Northwestern, Illinois and Indiana. Central Coach Ty Scroggins said Notre Dame has also shown interest.
Scroggins said he thinks Wales runs the 40-yard dash in the 4.4 range.
"Some might question his speed a little bit, but I saw him run by the kids from Paducah (Tilghman) and I thought he was fast enough," Scroggins said. "He runs fast enough to get the job done. He's going to run however fast it takes to outrun you."
Kentucky signed two running backs in February (Josh Clemons and Marcus Caffey) and also has young backs Brandon Gainer and Raymond Sanders in the fold, but the UK staff thinks highly enough of Wales that it won't hesitate to use a scholarship on him in the 2012 class.
The Wildcats certainly won't be hurt by the pipeline Phillips has established at Central, with three former Yellowjackets (Tim Patterson, Mister Cobble and Ridge Wilson) set to be on the 2011 roster. But Scroggins said Wales, who has already qualified academically to play as a freshman, is "wide open" on his college choice.
"He wants to be recruited; he doesn't have any idea right now where he wants to go," Scroggins said. "He's going to give Kentucky a serious look because of the guys already there and the relationships he's built with the coaches, but he's open to anybody. He wants to be a running back, and he wants an opportunity to play as a freshman."
Other prospects in town for Junior Day weekend included another Louisville back, DeMichael Jackson from Jeffersontown, and his teammate Daniel Ross, a 6-5, 255-pound defensive end. UK is the only school to have offered Ross and is thought to be the leader for his services.
Bowling Green offensive lineman Joe Manley, Mason County athlete Josh Harris, Highlands quarterback Patrick Towles, Highlands defensive back Drake Bruns, Rowan County quarterback Adam Wing, Henry Clay athlete Vincent Miller, and Ryle running back Travis Elliott are the other in-state recruits who were expected to attend Junior Day.
UK also invited a trio of teammates from Cincinnati Colerain: linebacker Joe Bolden, safety Andre Jones and defensive tackle Trae Clark. The 6-2, 225-pound Bolden already has offers from Stanford, Tennessee, West Virginia, Northwestern, North Carolina, Cincinnati, Illinois and Boston College.
Jones is a 6-1, 190-pound safety who has an offer from Cincinnati, and Clark is a robust 6-4, 320-pound defensive tackle. Colerain Coach Tom Bolden told Rivals.com that he wouldn't be surprised if UK offered any or all three of his players on their visits.
Uphill battle for Cats
Recruiting rankings won't be released until late summer after the camp circuit is completed, but Rivals.com recruiting analyst Keith Niebuhr said right now the two top prospects in Kentucky are Dixie Heights quarterback Zeke Pike and Seneca defensive tackle Tyrone Pearson.
Pike already has more than 30 scholarship offers, including Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Penn State, Southern Cal, LSU and Auburn, and he was the first player selected for the 2012 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
"He's this year's Lamar Dawson (out of Kentucky) and maybe even bigger," Niebuhr said. "In fact, he might be the biggest recruit out of Kentucky since Tim Couch. His film is really impressive, pretty amazing, actually. To show you how good his film was, he was getting offers before he even started a varsity game, all based on his JV film."
The 6-3, 285-pound Pearson, who is big and athletic enough to play on both sides of the ball, joined Pike on Rivals' early watch list of the country's top 250 prospects.
UK, Illinois, Louisville, Indiana, UCF, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Western Kentucky have offered Pearson, but the Cats don't appear to be high on his list. Pearson told Rivals.com that his favorite schools are Florida State, Illinois, Alabama, Auburn and Louisville.
"He's a kid that everybody wants," Niebuhr said. "Obviously he's right in the heart of SEC country, and that's a conference that likes to load up on the big defensive tackle types. His list of early offers is as impressive as anybody's in the country."
Kentucky has also extended several scholarship offers to out-of-state prospects, including Ronald Geohaghan, a 6-foot, 185-pound safety from Allendale High School in Fairfax, S.C.
Geohaghan has recovered from a torn ACL suffered last spring and has received offers from UK, Clemson, East Carolina, Illinois and Tulane. Geohaghan is a former teammate of Wildcat Jerrell Priester.
"Of the five offers he's received, I'm hearing he likes Kentucky the most right now," Niebuhr said. "That would be a big get for them."
Kentucky has also offered Jackson (Tenn.) receiver Drae Bowles. UK freshmen Avery Williamson and Christian Coleman played against Bowles in high school, and Bowles' father, Dexter, told Rivals.com that Williamson and his son remain close.
Cobb, Locke to work out at Combine on Sunday
Former Wildcats Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke will work out for scouts at the NFL Combine on Sunday in Indianapolis.
ESPN.com draft analyst Todd McShay has Cobb going to the Baltimore Ravens as the 26th pick of the first round. One of the biggest questions about Cobb going into the draft is his speed, and he hopes to dismiss those concerns in Indy. Cobb ran a 4.55 40-yard dash at UK's Pro Day last spring.
"Yeah, I think all the coaches and scouts want to see how fast I really am," Cobb told the Herald-Leader earlier this month. "I think I will have an improved time, but honestly I don't think it's all that important. It's about how fast you are on the field, and sometimes that 40 time doesn't translate."
Chip Cosby covers UK football for the Herald-Leader. This article includes his opinions and observations. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.